THE kidnapping of underage children is becoming the new gold mine for some people, who are gradually losing their humanity and have totally lost compassion for parents and their offspring. So disastrous is the trend that hardly a day goes by without a report of child theft in the media. The trade in children seems on the rise globally too.
One of the most popular this year was that of Lagos-based Orekoyas, who almost lost three children in April to a 23-year-old nanny they had hired via a popular online marketing platform. In Cross River State alone, over 20 children are reportedly kidnapped every nine months. The number might be relatively small, but the implications and effects are heartbreaking.
According to a civil society group, coalition of Prevent Abuse of Children Today, PACT’s report, victims could be canon fodders for rituals, used as source of cheap labour, trafficking for prostitution purposes or subjects of illegal adoption.
In Abuja, six children were, in July, rescued from kidnappers by police officers from Force Headquarters. Earlier in the week, the ceaseless cry of a four-month-old baby was reported to have saved three children from a woman later identified simply as Eno, in Lagos. While Eno claimed to be their mum, the oldest of the kids, a four-year-old, denied knowing her. The case is currently being investigated by the police.
However, the onus is on parents, caregivers and the children to be watchful, careful and factor in God’s grace for protection when perpetrators employ spell or coercion. With perpetrators continuously innovating new ways of doing business, every concerned parent need to be a step ahead. A few tips will help:
Let your child be aware
It is so unfortunate that children, who should be taught respect for adults and value for human life, have to be exposed to societal ills too early. But since birds have learned to fly without perching, men also have got to shoot without missing (apologies Achebe). So, without mincing words, say it as it is to your child. Let them know there are young, old men and women out there whose chief aim is to ‘steal’ them.
Establish a password: Pretending to be sent by parents to pick them tops the list of strategies employed by kidnappers. But the bubble burst for one of them recently when the child approached threw this question at the kidnapper: “What’s the password?” The kidnapper could not answer the question and the child immediately took to her heels.
Apparently, the parents had established a password which the child must require from anyone who claims to have been sent to pick her from school or wherever.
Use the school bus: If your child’s school has got a bus, then use it. This is because history has proved that children are less likely to be kidnapped on their way to and from school if taken by their official school bus. This is especially as most children now form the habit of wandering carelessly with friends on their way to and from school.
In situations where the child schools very close to your home, never have too much confidence in proximity for their safety; many have been abducted right under their parents’ nose and even on the same street where they live. Except very old enough to discern, defend and protect themselves to a reasonable extent, do not let the child go to and return from school without the company of a trusted adult. Also, never leave your child totally in the care of another minor.
Teach house addresses, phone numbers
With a little training and practice, it is easy to teach children this vital information. Children, who can recite their house addresses as well as emergency phone numbers, are less likely to be lost forever as it is easier to deliver them from potential abductors.
Sadly, history is replete with cases of rescued children who could not make available these vital information. Meanwhile, there are plenty of fun ways to teach children their house addresses and phone numbers. One of them is to let the child draw a picture of him or herself in front of a house on a sheet, and then recite repeatedly and write his address on it. As early as they can learn numbers, let them begin reciting your phone numbers.
No edibles from strangers
Except your child is a street kid begging for alms, he or she should be taught never to accept unsolicited gifts, particularly edibles, from strangers. Kidnappers have repeatedly employed such means to lure children to destinations of no return. The earlier a child is taught to avoid even going to meet strangers who beckon at them, the less prone the child is to being a victim.
Tell them to report friendly strangers
In some cases, prospective kidnappers groom target victims by becoming friendly with them. It could happen on social media platforms. Neighbours and total strangers can begin to act ‘uncle’ and ‘aunty.’ If your child is (inevitably) on any social platform, be his or her friend. And put parental control on that birthday mobile you bought for that child.
Nannies from online marketing platform?
It is a no-no. Children are too delicate and trusting to put in the hands of a stranger ‘yanked’ off a computer in the name of technological advancement.